This past Saturday I started instructing a four week session art class for children titled Interpreting Children's Literature, Authors and Illustrators through Art. With spring on the horizon in Minnesota (yes, we are still waiting for spring here), the birds have been busy. In an effort to start with the familiar (it's so important to start a class this way), we read and studied books on the subject of birds. We worked on the technique of creating layers with paint.
It took a short while for most of the class to warm up (although not as long as I had thought) and we were able to form a cohesive group quickly. Some of these children had been previous students and some of them were brand new faces.
We talked about the importance of art as a form of individual expression and the many different (limitless) ways each artist can express herself.
We started by creating a layer of paint on paper, incorporating any/all colors each artist wished. Some children wanted to use just one color and others wanted to use them all. The children were given the opportunity to work with large brushes and small brushes in order to experience how each applied paint to a large surface area. We worked with different paper, as well, noticing the difference in texture between the cotton paper and canvas. Once we had finished with our first layer of paint, we would read or study a book (or two), discussing the subjects of the book and how each illustrator chose to represent them.
|Declan, working on his first layers|
At this point, the children returned to their painting, adding a second layer (possibly a bird, if they wished). Some children were excited to paint a bird (or several). Others were interested in filling their entire paper again and adding another complete layer of paint. I demonstrated ways of adding additional dimension with the technique of using a tool (pencil or chopstick) to "scratch" design or detail into the painting. Some of the children wanted to try this and experienced surprise and delight to see the bottom layer of paint and the colors "pop through".
As a keen observer (the artist, educator and introvert in me), I was reminded, once again (even though I have worked with children for over thirteen years), how uninhibited children are when it comes to creativity. How focussed and absorbed they become in their work. How process prevails in all ways over product (so difficult for adults and yes, so difficult for me). How they do not compare themselves to others but only experience each moment as it occurs on their own paper. How lovely and refreshing.
Next week we will be studying one author and illustrator alone. Dianna Hutts writes books titled, A Seed is Sleepy, A Rock is Lively, An Egg is Quiet. Sylvia Long creates beautiful illustrations with small drawings and words. I cannot wait to observe where each child's expression or interpretation will lead.
Until then, I will do my best in art (and life) to practice the idea of being uninhibited and to create opportunities to become focussed and absorbed. I will remind myself of the importance of process and attempt to refrain from comparison. What will you do?
Our reading list from this past Saturday included:
Punch's Secret by May Sarton, illustrated by Howard Knotts
I am In Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Peter Parnell
Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Meilo So
Birdsongs by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Steve Jenkins.
|Peyton and Jonas working on their second layer|
(thank you, Jessica, for this photo)
For more information on children's art classes visit, this page.